Memories of: Stanford Asian Languages

Self must be the only one of her classmates in East Asian Studies (Chinese) that never went to China.

She hopes to correct that oversight, and soon.

In the meantime, she heard about a city on the California coast, a Buddhist city, founded by a fellow student at Stanford, Shari Epstein.

A few days ago, self went trolling for Shari on the web, and she stumbled on a memoir called “Growing Up in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.”  Here’s the first paragraph:

The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas was my whole world when I was growing up.  I remember trying to tell one of my classmates in college about it.  I went on for about half an hour, and then he said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.  I can’t even imagine that kind of community.”  My heart sank.  I realized that what had been such a central, dominant and treasured experience in my life was marginal, strange, and inaccessible to most people.  My earliest memories are of attending Sutra lectures with my parents.  (Sutras are Buddhist scriptures).  Every evening we would go to the temple, and I would play with the other kids while the adults chanted and then listened to our teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, give Dharma talks (lectures on Buddhist teachings).  Master Hua was a respected, high monk in Asia but nothing about him made that obvious to me.  From my point of view he was a kindly older monk whom everyone called Shr Fu, a Chinese term meaning literally “teacher-father.”

Shari, now that self has read this amazing piece, she regrets that she never knew you.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Good For You, Self!

You did not give in to temptation and slink off to see “Oblivion”!  No, you stayed home, and saved $7.  Not only that, you saved two hours of your life which were instead spent on:

  • Catching up with old friends.  You found an e-mail from Beth Alvarado.  Which was just so, so –  zen, because you had just been in the Stanford Creative Writing Program yesterday, attending a colloquium with T. C. Boyle (T.C., why are you so hip?  What gives you the right to be so hip?  How can you be a famous author and not be an ass?  How?  How?  How?  Is it your red converse sneakers and the black suit and the hair that probably at one time used to be a mullet?) and it would have been a terrible waste of the energy flow from that event to see a movie like “Oblivion.”
  • You got to try to get son off from jury duty.  That is, you called the San Mateo County Courthouse on his behalf and explained that on the date in question, son would be in Claremont, receiving his Masters diploma.  And the lady said, “Fine.  I’ll move his date to the following week.”  To which self really had no rejoinder.  Well, actually, she did attempt a rejoinder but the lady cut her off and said, “Ma’am, this is the second postponement.  By now he should know what his summer plans are!” Self meekly subsided.
  • You got to hear the mail landing in the mailbox.  And you were then able to see that you had a form rejection (from Colere) and an announcement of winners of the Sarabande Book Prize and were informed that IF you were a finalist, the entry fee for next year’s contest would be waived, so you thought that you were a finalist, until you read the names of the finalists.  What is the point of sending a letter saying IF you are this, then you won’t have to pay a fee to join the contest next year, when there are only three finalists and the letter was probably sent to EVERYBODY?
  • You got to do more web research on your favorite characters from “Game of Thrones” :  Jaime Lannister (You finally realized you’d been mis-spelling his name forever), and Brienne of Tarth.  And you found this fascinating interview between Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Self can’t believe she actually spelled that correctly), and Rolling Stone.  NC-W says quote unquote:  I’m sorry, I’m going in circles.  You were asking about Brienne and I’m talking about Jaime!  To which interviewer responds quote unquote:  It’s very Jaime of you.  To which NC-W responds quote unquote:  We should have Gwen on the phone.  It’d be more fun.

See, this is the reason why watching Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth on “Game of Thrones” is so much fun:  there’s this on-going banter between two people who respect each other, one of whom just happens to be a man.  And maybe Brienne, the woman, really wishes she were a man as well.  The man’s good looks are completely incidental to the relationship, and the woman’s plain-ness is incidental as well.  Holy Cow!  Did you catch that smokin’ hot tub scene in Episode 5?  When Brienne stood up from the water where she’d been just moments earlier simpering like a blushing bride and displayed herself to Jaime in all her earthly glory (from the back, but her curves were evident), and the guy was just — mesmerized?  As were we, the viewers?

Until the fight on the bridge episode (Episode 2?), which was the last one self saw before leaving for Venice, self’s favorite character on “Game of Thrones” was Daenerys.  But –  no more!  Give her Brienne’s awkward ungainliness any time!

So, given that self had skipped watching approximately three weeks’ worth of “Game of Thrones,” she could be forgiven for wondering why Jaime Lannister was wearing that hand on a rope around his neck.  She didn’t realize it was his own hand until some bandit began ridiculing him about it.  Then it was — GASP! –  Holy Major Plot Development!  As some other person on the web said (You see?  Self really HAS been all over the web this afternoon!):  Jaime.  Oh, Jaime.  I really hope you’re ambidexterous.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

May 18 is Stanford Worldwide Alumni Volunteer Day

This is such a neat idea, self doesn’t know why she missed this event last year.

Months ago, the Stanford Alumni Association put out a call for all alumni to devote one day, May 18, to doing volunteer work.  Everyone who registers gets their name listed on the Stanford Alumni site, along with the name of the organization they’re volunteering for.

This year, self is a registered participant.  She still, however, hasn’t identified which charity she’ll be doing volunteer work for.  It has to have something to do with writing, self thinks.  Like doing a creative writing workshop in a prison.  Or, since self likes gardening, she could try helping out in a community garden.  Or, since she loves books, she could volunteer at her local library.  Or, she could do a workshop for senior citizens.

For the longest time, self has been hearing about how the local branch of Wounded Warriors needs volunteers to drive vets to their doctor appointments.  Some of the vets are paraplegic, others are suffering from Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.  Either way, they can’t drive.

Ah, choices, choices.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

1st Saturday of 2013: At the Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum, Interactive Installation:  Viewers write notes to the person or thing or place they miss, then pin them to the tree.

Asian Art Museum, Interactive Installation: Viewers write notes to the person or thing or place they miss, then pin them to the tree.

Took son and Kramer to the Asian Art Museum today and caught “Out of Character:  Decoding Chinese Calligraphy.”  Also walked from the museum to the Shooting Gallery, and saw “Steppe Warriors:  New Works by Zaya,” which closes today.

Zaya’s paintings were exquisite in their detail and stylization.  Self loved the kinetic depiction of horses and waves.  Self’s favorite of the dozen or so paintings was one depicting the Mongol invasion of Japan.  On the upper right hand corner were a group of Japanese notables, all dressed in sumptuous kimonos, sitting with extreme poker faces as they watched the arrival of the ships bearing the Mongol army.  A few soldiers had already been engaged:  it seemed the Mongol invaders had the upper hand, for armor-clad Japanese soldiers were already shown expiring on the ground.

And here are a few observations about the calligraphy exhibit at the Asian Art Museum:

  • There was one monstrous scroll painting: Self wished there had been more.  She must confess to feeling a wee bit disappointed:  she loves the huge calligraphic “slash-and-burn” hanging scrolls because there is such power and concentration in each gigantic stroke of the brush.
  • Much of the calligraphic artwork on display was on loan from the private collection of Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo.  Self never knew that Yang was born and grew up in Taiwan.  Funny, she always thought of him as an Asian American Stanford kid.
  • There is a behemoth of a book in the gift shop, Five Centuries of Chinese Painting, written by self’s former Stanford professor, Michael Sullivan.

Here are a few notes self scribbled from the (free) audio tour:

  • In calligraphy, the creative act is visible.  This visibility is central to the work.  And it’s also what makes calligraphy such an exciting medium.  The Man said he wished he knew what the characters meant.  Self was so absorbed in imagining the power of the brush stroke and in examining the geometry of the individual characters that she forgot she was looking at representations of language.  Whenever self sees calligraphy, it moves her.  She thinks:  Slash and burn.  Slash and burn.
  • The exhibit included modern artists who had been inspired by calligraphy.  One artist, Brice Marsden, said, “I use the form of calligraphy, and then it disappears.”  Funny, that’s how self begins some of her favorite short shorts.  She begins with the structure –  perhaps from a story or a poem she is currently reading.  As she writes, the model disappears, melts away.  All she is left with are the bones of her story.
  • She’s not sure if it was also Marsden who said:  “The act of creativity existed in the mind before the brush touched the paper.”  That’s right!  That’s how self begins most of her short stories!  She’ll be washing dishes or doing laundry, and then, SHAZZAM!  The first step of writing is in her mind –  usually as she’s doing homely chores.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

New Year, Dutch Goose

Stanford won the Rose Bowl!

Hogan did it!  He did it!

Today, another “first”:  Self and The Man watched the game at the Dutch Goose, along with other Stanford alumni.  We looked to be about one of the few oldies in the crowd.  The crowd was amazingly sedate, only bursting out into loud applause when Stanford scored a touchdown (twice, in the first quarter)

Self had potato fries, fries, fries.  She should have gone for the sweet potato fries.  The result was –  nausea.  After last night’s greasy bacon dog, today’s basket of fries just about finished off her stomach.

Still, the day was loads of fun.

We shared a table with a Computer Science grad from the 1970s.  He said back then, computer science wasn’t so much about programming.  It was more like engineering.  He actually remembered building something with slabs of concrete.  He remembered using punched index cards for his final.

This girl was nursing a Stanford tattoo on the back of her hand.  She said she was waiting to see someone with a tattoo on his/her face.

This girl was nursing a Stanford tattoo on the back of her hand. She said she was waiting to see someone with a tattoo on his/her face.

This man and the girl with the Stanford tattoo on her hand exchanged business cards and then left, about halfway through the game.

This man and the girl with the Stanford tattoo on her hand exchanged business cards and then left, about halfway through the game.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Happy New Year! A Walk Around the Neighborhood with The Ancient One

Interesting Sidewalk Detail

Interesting Sidewalk Detail

The Ancient One Loves a Walk, Especially in the Sunshine!

The Ancient One Loves a Walk, Especially in the Sunshine!

We let her stop and smell anything she wants, because we know we do not have much longer to spend with her (As self never tires of pointing out, she is 17 yrs old).

We let her stop and smell anything she wants, because we know we do not have much longer to spend with her (As self never tires of pointing out, she is 17 yrs old).

The magnolia trees in our neighbors' yards are starting to bloom.

The magnolia trees in our neighbors’ yards are starting to bloom.

And now we are off to catch the Rose Bowl at Dutch Goose on Alameda, along with other excitable Stanford alums.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Personal Library 10

Can you believe that 49er/Seattle Seahawks game last night?  The Seattles delivered quite a thrashing.  It was so boring, self began watching 60 Minutes.

Today, while listening to NPR, self got to hear a television critic describing his worst show of 2012.  It’s on TLC, some reality show set in Georgia, where people speak with such strong accents that the show uses subtitles.  There’s “Honeybooboo” somewhere in the title.  “Honeybooboo” is apparently the name of a real person.

Anyhoo, a short clip from the show was aired, and it’s about the mother hiring an “etiquette coach.”  Since self was listening on the radio while driving, alas she could not avail of subtitles, and thus she could not understand a thing the mother said.  The mother was purportedly holding a new baby pig in her arms, which was part of the problem, because –  do dear blog readers know that when a baby pig squeals, it sounds just like a human baby?  And durn, that baby pig never stopped squealing!  It seemed like it would start a new squeal every three seconds.

Back to the Ostensible Reason for this Post!

Lowest Bookshelf (# 4) of Bookcase # 1 in self’s dining room:  43 books

385 + 43 = 428 Total books counted thus far

The shelf includes titles like:  A Mother’s Love, by Mary Morris;  Rickshaw Boy, by Lao She (translated by Jean M. James);  Essentials of Chinese Literary Art, by James J. Y. Liu (Self took four courses in Chinese poetry from Prof. Liu while at Stanford, that is how much she enjoyed Chinese poetry);  The Way of Chinese Painting:  Its Ideas and Techniques, by Mai-mai Sze; Realms of Gold:  Poems from the National Parks and Other Western Wilds, by David Meuel;  On Writing Well, 2nd edition, by William Zinsser;  The Fatal Shore, by Robert Hughes;  Arranged Marriage, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni;  The Collected Stories of Elizabeth BowenDrown, by Junot Diaz;  Marry or Burn:  Stories, by Valerie Trueblood;  Confessions of a Volcano, by Eric Gamalinda;  A Line of Cutting Women, edited by Beverly McFarland, Margarita Donnelly, Micki Reaman and Teri Mae Rutledge;  The Concept of Man in Contemporary China, by Donald J. MunroThe Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen, edited by C. Day Lewis.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Personal Library 5

In five more days Christmas 2012 will be over!  Over, over, over!

Self feels like singing.

No more traffic!  No more lines!  No more snarling soccer moms barreling along the streets in their behemoth SUVs!

Anyhoo, back to the tabulation of her books.

Last night, the count was up to 145.

Now, she turns to a small pile behind the pile she tabulated last night.

In this small pile, there are also five books.

She will not list them all, as she’s quite behind in her reading and writing today.  She spent the whole afternoon in: a) Costco and b) Stan-fuhd.  Speaking of Dear Old Alma Mater, they have added so many new buildings!  Self’s jaw dropped at the sight of the new Bing Auditorium.

She called Niece G to wish Niece a Happy Belated Birthday, only to be told (by txt msg) that Niece’s birthday isn’t until DECEMBER 27.  Oh thank heavens.  Self thought she had missed it.

Anyhoo, back to the book tabulation.

In this pile, there is a book edited by one of her former teachers, Arthur P. Wolf.  The book is Studies in Chinese Society, and self remembers it very well because it was her first required text in the graduate program in East Asian Studies.  And she was always in an agony of trying to call up quotes (to make herself sound more intelligent) during class.

The second book is a novel, First Person Plural, by Andrew W. M. Beierle, who she read with at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, early 2010 (Can that really be almost three years ago?  Heavens!)

And in this pile is a Very Very Special Book:  Hokusai:  One Hundred Poets.

It is the biggest, heaviest book that self owns, and it was a Christmas present from sole fruit of her loins, several years ago, when he was an undergrad in Cal Poly.  And it cost him a lot of money.  And he/we were all very strapped for funds at that time.  But such is love!



Thank you, son!

From the Introduction:

Hokusai is one of the greatest artists of any time or place.  He was born in 1760, in the Katsushika district of Edo (now Tokyo) and lived into his ninetieth year, dying in 1849.

The last of his great print series was the One Hundred Poets.  Begun in the artist’s seventy-sixth year, the prints have a greater richness of color and more wealth of detail than the prints of any other series in this large format.

145 + 5 = 150 total # of books counted thus far

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Personal Library 3

On the lower shelf of the bookcase adjacent to the front door, 45 books.

95 + 45 = 140 Total Books counted thus far.

The books on the lower shelf of Bookcase # 1 are mostly coffee table-size, hardbound books, and include titles like Hills Beyond a River:  Chinese Painting of the Yuan Dynasty, by James Cahill;  Filipinos:  Forgotten Asian Americans:  A Pictorial Essay, 1763 – 1963, by Fred Cordova;  The Forbidden Book:  The Philippine American War in Political Cartoons, by Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, and Helen Toribio;  The New Painting:  Impressionism 1874 – 1886, by the staff of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Our World’s Heritage, published by the National Geographic Society;  the Fear of the Feminine:  And Other Essays on Feminine Psychology, by Eric Neumann; Symbols of Eternity:  Landscape Painting in China, by Michael Sullivan (Self took three courses from him while she was a grad student at Stanford); Philippine Hospitality:  A Gracious Tradition of the East, by Lily Gamboa O’Boyle and Reynaldo G. Alejandro;  Choosing Revolution: Chinese Women Soldiers on the Long March, by Helen Praeger Young;  The Quartet of the Tiger Moon, by Quijano de Manila;  The Public Conscience of Jaime V. Ongpin, written by Alfred A. Yuson and Ricardo B. Ramos




In other news:  “Dirty Harry” was admitted to the Library of Congress today, along with 24 other iconic films, such as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”  And “The Matrix.”  And the Tom Hanks movie “A League of Their Own.”  All hail, Clint, Audrey, Keanu, and Tom!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Stanford: Two Remaining Lane Lectures, 2012 – 2013

When Natasha Trethewey, the current U.S. Poet Laureate, read at Stanford last week, self was still in Bacolod.

The remaining two writers are old chum Jeffrey Eugenides (!!), who she hasn’t seen since he gave a reading from Middlesex at Kepler’s, years ago, and T. C. Boyle, who she saw quite recently, when he gave a reading at Foothill.

Wooooo Hoooo!  Self admires both writers exceedingly.  Here are the particulars:

Jeffrey Eugenides
reads Monday, February 25, 2013
8 p.m.
Cemex Auditorium, Zambrano Hall, Knight Management Center
Colloquium next day, Tuesday, February 26, 11 a.m.
Terrace Room, Building 460, Main Quad

T. C. Boyle
reads Monday, May 6, 2013
8 p.m.
Cemex Auditorium, Zambrano Hall, Knight Management Center
Colloquium next day, Tuesday, May 7, 11 a.m.
Terrace Room, Building 460, Main Quad

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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